Monday, May 21, 2007

Google-Salesforce.com Alliance: Carving Out Context for Value-Add Business Information

On one level the news from WaPo and others that Salesforce.com is discussing an alliance with Google to integrate Google's office applications, messaging and other key components into their offerings has to be welcomed at business information providers' offices. Many business information services companies are already taking advantage of Salesforce.com's AppExchange service to integrate their content and functional capabilities into SF.com's increasingly popular sales and marketing platform, so SF.com's success will help to enhance their successes as well through on-demand content services sales. But this development must be absorbed along with the announcement of SF.com's launch of a venture funding network to accelerate the development of business information services through their platform. Put the two of these together and you can see a perfect storm brewing for business information providers that have assumed that their investments in enterprise software to drive content sales will flourish indefinitely.

Why be worried about SF.com and Google? The key factor is that bit by bit the enterprise's information base is being absorbed into proprietary Web databases. That's likely to turn out to be a good thing for many enterprises trying to compete in a cost-conscious global environment: the "pretty good" infrastructure of SF.com is increasingly more than just adequate to perform crucial tasks, especially when extended by third party services through SF.com's AppExchange services. Add in the "pretty good" Google office automation services and you can envision a day not too far down the road when many enterprise users will be using the combination of Google and SF.com services for 80 percent or more of their day-to-day business information generation and use. Throw in Google's Web and enterprise search services along with their robust and open development APIs and you can imagine more than a few of those SF.com venture dollars funding business information solutions that will make solutions like Factiva's SalesWorks look fairly limp by comparison.

While a stronger SF.com is in the interest of business information providers who want fast inroads into sales, marketing and management teams in enterprises this ally is beginning to recognize the gravitas that its platform-independent approach to business solutions has to provide leverage over these same vendors. As publishers thirsty for new revenue channels open up more to enabling access to premium content through Google search interfaces the combination of SF.com and Google could spell trouble for traditional licensed database services over the next few years. If SF.com and Google own the development and marketing environment and publishers no longer require traditional subscription services to leverage their content into enterprise applications then it is going to be a far more competitive environment for business information services providers who count on aggregated subscription services for their revenues.

There will be more good news than bad news for a while out of this impending alliance but business information services will be well-advised to sharpen up their strategies as to how to preserve and accelerate revenues through this alliance. Nimble competitors are likely to do quite well if they adjust quickly - but odds are strong that more than a few business information providers will stumble along the way.
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